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4th suspect arrested in Gangnam hagwon laced-drink blackmail case

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One of the spiked drinks labeled ″Mega ADHD″ that was handed to high school students as part of a blackmail scheme [SEOUL GANGNAM POLICE PRECINCT]
One of the spiked drinks labeled ″Mega ADHD″ that was handed to high school students as part of a blackmail scheme [SEOUL GANGNAM POLICE PRECINCT]

A fourth suspect was arrested in the Gangnam cram-school drugged-drink blackmail case, police said.

The suspect along with three others gave out the drinks, labeled “Mega ADHD,” to high schoolers in the private cram-school area in Daechi-dong, southern Seoul.

A 49-year-old woman who is suspected of involvement in distributing the drinks was arrested at her residence in eastern Seoul on Wednesday, while a man in his 20s turned himself in at a police station later that day after watching news reports on the scheme.

The third suspect, described by police as a woman in her 20s, was tracked down and detained by police officers on Thursday morning. Police said she confessed to being involved in the drinks giveaway event.

The four suspects are accused of inviting passing students to participate in a free tasting event for beverages that would purportedly enhance memory and concentration but were actually spiked with methamphetamines and ecstasy.

The students were asked to provide the contact information of their parents after consuming the drinks, which was then used either by the suspects or potentially others to threaten the parents, saying their children’s drug use would be reported to the police if they did not pay money.

At least six victims have reported being drugged and subsequently blackmailed.

The suspects may not be the masterminds and actually victims themselves.

According to police officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to the JoongAng Ilbo, all of the suspects told investigators that they were recruited after responding to an online hiring notice for a high-paying part-time job.

The detained suspects also told police that they retrieved the drinks in question from public luggage lockers or received them at home through a same-day courier service.

The blackmail-by-drugging scheme has outraged parents of students, especially those who frequent cram schools in the Daechi-dong area.

“All of the moms are in shock. We don’t know what to do because we can’t always drop off and pick up children that are in middle or high school,” said one 47-year-old mother.

A 45-year-old parent said that it was “malicious” of the blackmailers “to target kids with talk of boosting concentration in an area where students come to study.”

The case even led President Yoon Suk Yeol, who previously said his administration will wage “war” against drugs in Korea, to vow that “all available police and prosecution resources will be deployed to track down the group that distributed and sold these drugs and confiscates their criminal proceeds.”

The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency on Thursday began patrols of Daechi-dong and other neighborhoods with high concentrations of cram schools, such as Mok-dong, Junggye-dong and Chang-dong, to prevent a recurrence of similar crimes.

BY MICHAEL LEE [lee.junhyuk@joongang.co.kr]